A letter to my son

A little over two years ago I wrote a letter to my daughter (linked at bottom). While it also reflects my hopes and prayers for my son, I wanted to write a specific one for just him.

Dear Declan,

Eyes: I pray that your eyes see, really see, every humans worth. That they will not be used for the exploitation or denigration of others. That they wouldn’t be afraid to cry.. like at Remember The Titans. That they would reflect depth. That above all, they would gaze into the glory and grace of Jesus and everything else would grow strangely dim.

Ears: I pray that your ears will never stop hearing the simple things like planes soaring or birds chirping or your sister laughing. That your ears will be quicker to act than your mouth is. That they would be open to hear talks with your dad. That above all, at the end of your life, you would hear your Father say “well done.”

Mouth: I pray that your words would be gentle and courageous; and that they would protect and defend. That its favorite shape would be a genuine smile. That you would use it to enjoy and appreciate good food. Above all that I would hear it loudly sing the praises of your King in the back seat of our car, in the shower, down the aisle from me, and in a village half way across the world.

Hands: That your hands would work hard at whatever they do. That they would help others up when they fall down and reach out to be grabbed when you yourself fall down. That they would firmly shake the hand of both the executive and the man with a sign on the street corner. Above all, that they would be open to receive grace and forgiveness in Christ.

Mind: I pray that your mind would grow in knowledge but even more so, in wisdom. That your mind would be a battle ground against destructive thoughts and a factory for growth, creativity, and reflection. Above all, that your mind would constantly mull over the Words of God.

Feet: I pray that they would jump and run and kick and climb. That they would bring you to the tops of mountains and feel the edge of the ocean wash over them. Above all, that they would go wherever God would lead you.

Heart: Lastly, I pray for your precious heart. That your heart would feel deeply and love fiercely. That it would be big and be brave. That it would have an evident connection to your words and actions. Above all, that it would rest secure and strong; not just as a servant of God but a son of God. A fully known, accepted, held, and loved- son.

No matter where you go, what you do, or who you become, our love for you is settled. And our arms are always an open place for you to run.

I’m glad you’re my boy.

Love, Mom

https://lewisvillelife.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/a-letter-to-my-daughter/

Postpartum hacks

As of today my baby boy is two weeks old. It’s been two weeks of short nights, curious little eyes, body pains, therapeutic snuggles, moments of utter chaos and so so much sweetness.

While having my second go-around on this new born thing doesn’t at all make me a pro, I decided to compile a list of what I’m calling “postpartum hacks” that have mostly been passed along to me and that I hope to implement during these days.

So to you mamas whose trash is full of diapers, sink is full of bottles, and shirt is full of stains; this ones for you. For us.

1. Read a book or binge watch a show while feeding baby. It’s enjoyable and its effortless, and it will always be a sentimental connection to the new born days.

2. Hide some chocolate… or any treat of choice. When you need a quick pick me up, whip that delicious chocolate (dark for me!) out of your hidden stash and treat yo self. Tastes like deliciousness and adulthood.

3. Be easy on your body. Instead of focusing so much on how your body looks focus more on what your body can do. Remember your body brought forth life and continues to give it daily. Consider the messages your body sends to your baby like warmth, love, safety, and provision.

4. Sleeeep! Every chance you get when you need it.. which is every chance you get.

5. Adjust quiet times. As a Christian these demanding days honestly make “quiet times” with God feel a little daunting. A friend once encouraged me that this season is an okay one to set aside our bible reading plan that has us in Leviticus and instead spend 15 spare minutes in the Pslams. Even if we don’t have the same emotional and mental capacity, our souls need Gods Word. So keep feeding on it, even if it is more like small snacks. *also fill your mind with good music and podcasts.

6. GO! When given the opportunity… get out for bit! Leave the baby for a few minutes with someone you trust and sit at a coffee shop, go on a walk, or just drive around the block with the windows down.

7. Identify energy drains. A podcast I was recently listening to suggested identifying our typical “drain times” during the day. With my first child I discovered quickly that one of mine was during the time between dinner and when Dad gets home (for us about 5:30 to 7:30) This is ironically the time when I’m building an imaginary wall and my daughter, and now son, are simultaneously determined to knock it down and be as close to me as humanly possible.

8. Apply energy fills. Instead of resorting to checking out during this time, though, we should follow up by identifying our energy fills. It might be sneaking away for 3 minutes to lay on our bed and stare at the ceiling, or stepping outside and breathing in fresh air, or closing our eyes and imagining bed time. But it’s finding, and applying, that little something to give us an extra push to get through the day more faithfully and fully.

Well, now I’m going to go eat some chocolate and binge watch Parenthood. Orrrr feed my baby while my toddler is climbing on me. Whatever.

Mom life.

Let’s embrace it.

Let’s laugh.

Let’s snuggle them like we don’t have long.

Let’s count the small wins.

Let’s breath in each precious moment.

I’d love to hear your own ideas! So drop your postpartum must-haves and go-tos below.

Respecting women vs valuing women

In the wake of the recent “me too” movement and the allegations that seem never ending, I’ve been wrestling and considering and wondering how we got here. This issue is complex, uncomfortable, and heavy. But I have wholeheartedly come to the conclusion that it is worth delving into.

And in my attempt at delving, I have come to see a major discrepancy that seems to lie at the heart of the issue. This discrepancy is a disconnect between a culture that promotes outward respect of women yet neglects an inward valuing of them.

What happens in a place where boys have been taught to open doors for girls, yet check them out as they walk through? What happens in a place where guys have the mentality of “ladies first” in line at the store but “me first” when it comes to sex? What happens in a place where men compliment women on a date but whistle at them walking down the street?

Abuse of power happens.

Rape happens.

Porn happens.

Maybe women are emotionally driven feminists who need to calm down. Maybe women are blindly jumping onto some sort of movement. Maybe women are jealous of men. Maybe women are discontent.

Maybe some are.
But maybe some are tired of feeling outwardly respected yet deeply unvalued.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for a submersion of genders. I am not proposing that uniformity is the answer.

I believe diversity and distinction- from gender to race to seasons- is a beautiful God made thing. I think to deny the things that make women unique is actually to do a disservice to the value of them altogether. Just like it pains me to think about other ethnicities and minorities putting aside their history and culture in an effort to function and belong equally, it pains me to see women do this as well.

I think women trying to conform to and compete with men only perpetuates the problem and ironically uplifts men as the standard and goal.

Rather,  I’m advocating for a deep and genuine valuing of women. Women as equal human beings to men and women as gloriously set apart from men.

So, how might we raise a generation of boys to do much more than pay for a woman’s dinner? While this list is no where near exhaustive, I wanted give a few practical every day ways we can all seek to bridge this gap a little more effectively:

  1. Men, defend women verbally. Don’t give into the mentality that “locker room talk” is harmless. Use your voice to speak up and defend. It’s not enough to ignore it or not partake in it.
  2. Women, defend women verbally. Have other women’s backs and don’t laugh off demeaning comments whether they are coming from men or women.
  3. Promote women. Talk about how good they are at something in front of other men.
  4. Ask women what they think. Value their minds by simply asking them what they think about something.
  5. See and define women as more than their roles. See them as individual people.
  6. Stop informing your view of women and sex based off of porn.
  7. Praise women for their unique giftings and abilities as women.
  8. For Christians, seek to distinguish between Biblical womanhood and cultural.
  9. Let little girls explore their personal interests and passions at a young age. Don’t only buy them dolls and dress up. But don’t be afraid to let them love those things either.
  10. Compliment women on more than their looks.
  11. Take no as an answer.
  12. Listen to the experiences of women. Don’t dismiss, defend, or dispute. Really listen with the aim to understand.

Before finishing I just want to say that there are so many men in my life I love and admire. So many men who have both respected and valued me. This blog is not intended in any way to bash or belittle men. Instead, I’m hoping to open up the conversation and give some honest thoughts based off of my own experiences and the experiences of many around me.

Let’s not be afraid to have honest conversations, even if they are hard and uncomfortable.

Sharing openly and listening humbly can do wonders.

Why we love This Is Us

We crave real

We see the contrast between shallowness leading to emptiness and depth leading to fulfillment. We cheer when Kevin calls out Olivia for running from anything that might feel genuine and we weep when he tells Sophie he himself is an empty shell of a person. Sometimes we too feel empty and incapable of loving. Yet we desperately long to be more than hallow shells and we hold out hope that Kevin (and maybe us too) will choose vulnerability instead of vanity.

Deaths unstoppable sting

This show reminds us of the havoc that death wreaks on those it leaves behind. It reveals that death is uncontrollable and grief is inescapable. We can stuff, run, hide, and deny, but grief chases us. We see that healing is a process and not a destination. While the darkness of death is not ignored we also see that death can bring about the light of legacy and memories which can never be taken from us.

Human complexity

This Is Us so creatively and brilliantly portrays the tangled webs woven deeply inside of us, starting from day one. And it causes us to grapple with questions like nature vs nurture. We are reminded that the lenses we all interpret life from are vastly different, even when we grow up in the same house as someone else. We see our 7 year old self still inside of our ever changing 30 year old self. We are boringly predictable yet scarily surprising. There are a million different things playing into the ways we think and act and live, and often we’re totally unaware of them.

The mess behind the beauty

The show does not shy away from the brutally hard side of things like adoption or foster care or family or marriage. It does not glamorize true beauty. It reveals it in all its gut wrenching and heart breaking mess. Sometimes it exposes the ugly mess so accurately that it makes us question the value of the jewel hidden in all the muck.

But the beauty is worth it

Time and time again we see that the risk and even the pain are worth it. We see that life is full of injustices. We see that racism and addiction and death and abandonment and utter selfishness exists. We see how choosing someone means taking on their own struggles and stories. Yet we’re left with the hope that relationships really are a mess worth making.

Love conquers

It’s not the fairy tale, romanticized, fabricated kind of love we often get on the TV. It’s the most raw kind. The kind that makes a Dad look into his rebellious or insecure or ungrateful child’s eyes and tenderly wrap his hands around their neck and say “You’re mine and nothing will change that.” The kind of love that fiercely protects and wholeheartedly fights. The kind that says, “I have a problem, will you help me?” The kind that responds “I’m not going anywhere.” This is the love that keeps us sobbing and smiling and cheering and coming back for more.

I think we all love it because this really is us.

3 years, 8 lessons

As some of you might remember, last year I did a list of 13 lessons from year 2 of marriage. Once again this is not a list of things “mastered” but more things we are seeking to grow in or maybe have just failed miserably at.

After reflecting on another year (which is always such a sweet and good thing to do), here are 8 lessons that continued to stick out and come to mind:

1. We’re both broken

This year Kyle and I realized in new, humbling, and even liberating ways that we are both indeed, broken people. We have learned this reality should be met with confession and not concealment. We have also learned that we both have needs that are good and right and often even the same. But, in our brokenness, we start grasping for them to be met in our own selfish and side-ways ways. This should lead us primarily to empathy and understanding and not judgement or isolation.

2. We’re both redeemed

Even though we’re still broken beings, redemption in Christ changes everything. Including marriage. When I truly understand that God loves my husband, I can look at him and say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there I will look at your magnificence and say ‘I always knew you could be like this, I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!'” (Tim Keller)

3. Time matters

We have discovered that quality time typically doesn’t just happen on its own. The truth is, with or without kids, it is more about seizing the time than finding it. The time, in some form, is there. Whether early mornings or late nights, it’s there. Sometimes after a long day, it’s choosing to unwind and be mindless, together. Watch a show together, play cards together, or just sit and be together. 

4. Get inside each other’s worlds

Instead of resenting the thing that takes much of our spouses attention or time, we should let it have ours as well. We should ask them to teach us about it. Maybe this will mean their sports team becomes our sports team. Or maybe this will mean they sit down with us at our favorite coffee shop. Whatever the case, we don’t have to be clueless outsiders to their jobs and interests and hobbies.

5. God’s way is best

While these words might sound simplistically obvious to Christians or outdated and rigid to non Christians, when our friend spoke them to us this year, they were exactly the words we needed to hear in the moment we heard them. These words have continued to ring true time and time again when we have sat in the utter mess of trying to do marriage our own way.

6. Remember your spouse is for you

Walking with the confidence that your spouse is “for you” promotes trust and security. It is life giving and nourishing. A silly and simple example of this is that I love to take notes at church; but 99% of the time forget a pen. One Sunday, as if I was surprised by myself, I was aimlessly looking around for a pen. I looked over at Kyle who was holding one out for me and said he brought it for me. It hit me: he knows me. He brought a pen for me. He is for me. In both the big and seemingly insignificant moments we have to look for evidences of this truth.

7. Be for your spouse

Because we are human, we are not always going to perfectly be  for someone else. While it will not be perfectly or unfailingly, it can and should be strivingly. Without giving and receiving this powerful ingredient in marriage, we subtly start to see the other person as actually against us. We, then, naturally resort to guarding and defending ourselves. But a unique beauty of marriage is seen in being remembered by the very person we are forgetting ourselves for. We don’t have to watch our backs because the other person has them.

8. Listening to hear

This seems super simple. After all, the point of listening to someone else is to really hear them, right? Yet we have seen how easy it becomes to “listen” mostly for the sake of responding or assuming. Recently, Kyle and I had a conversation where the listener had to repeat back to the sharer what they heard them saying until the sharer felt they were accurately heard. There is freedom found here. Here, not where our spouse agrees with everything we say, but rather where we are heard and understood.

Kids and Christmas.

Last year, on our daughter’s 1st Christmas, my husband and I started to implement the “4 gift rule”. Well, actually we added another category that we thought was a part of it and so ours is really a “5 gift rule.” Last year implementing this rule was not hard at all, considering we could have wrapped an already-owned toy and she would not have known any different. This year, however, has proven to be a little more challenging. Reese is still not yet old enough to have Christmas expectations, so the challenge was solely in the hearts and minds of her parents. I have to admit, it was tough walking around Toys R Us on Black Friday with my husband and not giving into the  “oh just one more thing…” mentality. I already had to fight off feelings of guilt and discontentment.

But, as of now we are heading into this Christmas with 5 gifts to give our daughter.

Before I move on I do want to make something clear: this blog is not at all written with the intention to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not trying to draw anyone’s line for them or even say where I think it should be drawn. Because I don’t know. While my husband and I seek to be intentional, we are naturally very spontaneous and “wing it” sort of people. So this new “tradition” is held with really open hands. We liked the idea behind it and we wanted to give it a try. So, we’ll keep re-evaluating and re-adjusting as needed. Or maybe at some point we will scrap it all together. But for now, here are the unspoken and spoken messages we want to be sent to our kids through each specific gift-

  1. Something you want: We care about your enjoyment and we want to invest in things that make you excited.
  2. Something you need: We want to be aware of and provide for your needs. Some years this might be a physical need while others it may be more spiritual, emotional, or relational.
  3. Something to read: Your brain is an invaluable gift that is worth being fed and stretched and invested in. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Suess
  4. Something to wear: We want you to know when you get dressed in the morning that you are protected and provided for, as much as it is up to us. We want you to have shoes to run in and a jacket to keep you warm. We also want you to be able to express yourself- who you are and what you like- through what you wear.
  5. Something to share: Others matter. Gifts aren’t just for or about indulgence and they aren’t just about us. Shared possessions can lead to shared enjoyment and experiences, and that is often better than the gift itself.

Even more importantly though- whatever we end up doing in the years to come- here are the underlying questions we want to ask ourselves each Christmas as we decide how to navigate things like traditions and gifts and family values-

Consistency
Overall, we want to ask ourselves what a specific gift (or the way we “do gifts”) is teaching our kids about the rest of life. Do these gifts and the way we are going about them promote what we are trying to teach them every other day of the year? Is Christmas an isolated event in our life or does it flow with what we care about every other season of the year?

Enjoyment
Something I read in a blog a while back that really struck me was the idea of setting your enjoyment bar. She talked about the need to often times set our bar lower in order to enjoy more frequently and more deeply. If our enjoyments are only found in the highest of highs, then we are always waiting around for the next big trip or gift. And then we go to the next level by trying to always top them. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy what we often dismiss as simple or mundane. Enjoyment can be guided and learned.

Contentment
We want to teach our kids, and our own hearts, that gratefulness springs from a heart of contentment and ungratefulness springs from one of comparison. Instead of looking around at what others have we want to practice looking at what we have. We want to verbally practice saying “thank you.” Our heart will get there if our mouth starts there.

Entitlement
It is so easy for the Holiday season in particular to bring a sense of entitlement. We can subtly believe that we deserve gifts because “that’s just the way it is on Christmas.” Instead, we want to remind and recognize that all gifts are, well… gifts! If we are “owed” something, it ceases to be a gift. You do not “deserve” a gift more than the kid down the street whose parents were not able to afford any this year.

Gifts are about more than just you
With every gift there is both a giver and a receiver. We want to instill eyes that see the giver behind every gift. To see an actual person who is using something of their own- likely time and money- in order to give you something. Gifts are also given to do more than just hoard and keep. The more we get the more we are able to give.

A letter to my first born whose whole world is about to change.

My sweet Reese,

As the time approaches for your little brother or sister’s arrival there is a part of me that wants to tell them to wait a little longer so we have another “one last day” with just you. Soon that baby boy or girl will change your whole life as well as ours. I can not help but remember having that same feeling about you as your dad and I had our last get-a-way trip together. I knew you were going to change everything and I simultaneously wanted you to come and to wait. So, in these “last days” I have been reflecting on all you have taught me. I know parents are supposed to teach their kids but now I realize how much kids teach their parents, too.

You, my first born daughter, have taught me…

How wonderful being a mama really is
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how much I would love this being a mom thing or if it was for me. Yet that changed from literally the first second you entered the outside world. Not that all my fears or hesitations vanished, but they were still, and I knew that being your mom was a gift and not a mistake. Just like that you won me over. And countless times since that day I have stared at you in my arms, bubbling over with an affection I never knew existed. And it just keeps getting better. Being a mama- being your mama- is so much sweeter than anyone could have ever convinced me of.

How weak I am
All it took were your cries waking me up at midnight to realize just how selfish and easily angered I really was; or a trip to the ER with you to realize how little control I really had over your life. My impatience, incompetence, and inconsistencies did not wait very long to show themselves. Needy babies have a way of teaching their mamas just how needy we are too. You have taught me to be more willing to ask others for help, to admit my shortcomings, and to see just how strong and capable Jesus is and how quick He is to meet me in my weakness every single time.

How strong I am
When I found out I was pregnant with you not only did I feel unprepared in the timing I also felt completely unequipped as a person. Yet through your life I have found new kinds of inward and outward strength that I didn’t know were mine. You have helped me to try new things, to act despite my fear, to make hard choices, to love selflessly, and to keep going when I wanted to give up. Because of you I have seen the quiet, still, and deep strength that motherhood requires of you and gives to you.

The world is beautiful
Little do you know, you have already lived through some dark days in this world. Yet your innocent eyes that easily fill with wonder and awe have brought light into dark spaces and have opened my own eyes to the small beauties of life. Everything might not always be beautiful, but beauty can always be found.

Tomorrow is a new day
Even when I would go to bed with tears on my pillow feeling like a failure of a mother, I knew I would wake up and see your forgiving and forgetful smile the next morning. Even when I would be on my phone instead of play with you, or react instead of respond, or not cherish you or teach you like I should; I could always count on waking up to underserved grace the next day. You have taught me the simple healing power of a good night of sleep and the hopefulness that accompanies each sunrise.

My own Heavenly Fathers love
Being your mom has given me a new glimpse into my own relationship with my Father. It has shown me the way He cares deeply for me in the midst of discipline, the way He holds me, the way He knows my good and does not keep it from me, the way He loves me in my brokenness, and the significance of being called His child. I now see more clearly what it means to be known and seen and loved unconditionally, because He has adopted me as His own. Just like you are my beloved daughter, I too am His beloved daughter.

Love has different forms
I think I used to be afraid of making space to love someone new and that someone was you. As you might come to see, it can be scary. But you, my daughter, have taught me that love does not have to replace or duplicate. Love is vast and there is so much room to welcome others into it. I love your Dad with a romantic/best friend kind of love. Our love has the deepest of roots- covenant love. Yet, as it has been said, the kind of love I have for you is sort of like seeing my own heart walking outside of my body. Reese Avery, there is no competition in true love. No one gets left behind or lost. We will always share a unique bond and it will only keep growing in its own special way.

Yet now.
Now we must make room in our family and heart to love someone new. Your world is about to change. But, before you know it, you will not be able to imagine that same world without your sibling. Just like we cannot imagine ours without YOU- our energetic, strong-willed, daring, silly, and kind, first-born.

I love you,
Mama